According to recent reports, revenue from the global events and meetings industry is projected to increase from $23.9 billion in 2018 to $33.4 billion by 2023. The primary catalyst for this growth is the expansion of virtual and hybrid event solutions connecting people worldwide in real-time, regardless of location, physical limitations, or schedule constraints.
Virtual and hybrid events significantly changed how meetings, conferences, and other events are delivered to attendees. Following is a deeper look into what these types of events entail and how they’ll change the future of events moving forward.
The Reality of Virtual Events
According to Forbes, virtual events boomed in 2020, up 1000% from the previous year. Though the pandemic was largely the catalyst for such dramatic growth, this shift changed how people will approach events from now on.
Virtual events have several advantages when in-person attendance is not possible, including the ability to be held anywhere and at any time and accessible to people with a range of physical impairments. Virtual events are an excellent way for businesses and individuals to reach new audiences. They are also perfect for recruiting remote workforces and building customer relationships.
One of the main challenges facing virtual event planners is coordinating all aspects of the technologies and platforms running the event. For example, planners need to ensure participants have (or provide them with) all the necessary equipment, such as computers and headsets; ensure the host platform is stable and won’t cause glitches during the event; and that all attendees have a good internet connection. Virtual events also require tech teams to be on hand to help with any issues participants or exhibitors may have.
In some cases, virtual events also require advanced technology. Virtual reality headsets, for instance, may be required for some activities, such as team-building exercises or group discussions. Real-time polling platforms can be used to garner feedback and input from attendees on the spot. Video engagement technologies such as Pluto or Gather allow participants to walk around the venue virtually and interact with each other.
Though some cost savings come from hosting a virtual event, investing in such leading-edge technologies will be critical for those looking to host virtual events in the future. Gone are the days when just a Zoom link and PowerPoint with a talking head would suffice for audiences. Attendees now expect highly dynamic events that utilize interactivity, visual engagement, and technology for more in-depth experiences.
Hybrid Events: The New Normal
Hybrid events are becoming a more familiar concept in the events industry. 67% of event professionals say hybrid will be their go-to format for events in the future. The notion combines aspects of traditional in-person events with virtual or digital components. Hybrid events allow organizers to reach a broader audience by offering a virtual component and adding 3D and augmented reality technologies that extend the in-person experience. This format has increased the event’s impact and led to higher attendance (and repeat attendee) rates.
Hybrid events are also a good way for brands to reach new audiences that may not be interested in attending a traditional event. For example, a brand may want to target younger customers who are more likely to be online than offline. A hybrid event would allow organizers to reach these customers and connect them to others who share their interests.
Hybrid events are still relatively new, so it’s not yet clear how they will evolve over the next few years. However, there are some things we can expect:
– Comprehensive use of digital tools to manage all aspects of the events and promote follow-up
– Increased use of augmented and digital technologies that enhance the onsite experience
– Greater use of remote locations for sessions or activities
– Improved flexibility for attendees when choosing what sessions or activities they want to attend
We are seeing a number of companies jumping on this trend and hosting hybrid conferences, including Apple, FinCon21, and the Hawaii International Film Festival, among others. They are also growing in popularity around the world. Hybrid events are becoming more common in Europe, South America, and Asia and are also starting to pop up in Australia and New Zealand.
Technology Rises to the Top in Virtual and Hybrid Events
The best event technology for your organization will depend on your specific goals. Here are just a few solutions you should consider for your next virtual or hybrid event:
Quality audio technology is essential for virtual and hybrid events. With the right recording and playback solutions, meeting and event professionals can ensure all attendees capture the message and remain engaged.
Video is the leading format for anything digital, including events. It’s essential for connecting remote attendees in a virtual or hybrid conference. By providing video feeds, attendees can see the speaker and other attendees in real-time, enabling more meaningful participation.
3D / AR TECH
Augmented reality and tools that deliver 3D imaging or video will only grow in popularity as event planners look for ways to engage audiences deeper and deliver a memorable event. These are also ideal for in-person and virtual audiences, so we expect to see more of these in hybrid events.
Collaboration tools like online whiteboards, video conferencing technology, and instant messaging help event professionals and attendees share ideas, content, and feedback in real time.
ONLINE FORUMS AND WEBINARS
Online forums and webinars are popular for delivering online content, such as training sessions and presentations. They are also helpful in collecting feedback, ideas, and materials from attendees before an event.
Digital signage solutions are a great way to achieve high impact at an event and can be used to display information, updates, and content throughout the conference.
The virtual and hybrid event solutions that will be common in 2023 are already gaining traction. We see many organizations announcing events with a virtual or hybrid element and expect this to accelerate in the coming years.
While hybrid and virtual events can be an excellent option for organizations looking to expand their reach and make their events more accessible to attendees, they require specific knowledge and skill sets that some people may find challenging to navigate. Therefore, organizers must be sure their teams have the proper training and support to run these events successfully.
Although technology is constantly changing and evolving, events will always be around to entertain and bring information to people. The format and style of the event all depend on how fast and adaptable we can be. Check out SmartSource’s latest technology. Our experienced team will help with any style of event you decide to host!